Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Wizards' Pupils

Author: Altariel
Nominator: Isabeau of Greenlea
2008 Award Category: Races: Men: Minas Tirith - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: On teaching, tutors, and the importance of honest debate. Faramir, on a meeting with diverse wizards.


Reviewed by: Isabeau of Greenlea -- Score: 10

A story of Faramir both in the height of his power as Steward of Gondor and as a very unsure young man. His son, Elboron, upon returning from a year's visit with his mother's kin in Rohan, is instructed by a new tutor, who is a young man, but reknowned for brilliance. Some of the tutor's ideas trouble Elboron however, and he goes to his father for guidance. Faramir recounts to Elboron a great occasion in his youth, a visit of the wizard Saruman to Minas Tirith. Though there is not indication this actually happened in canon, there is no reason it could not have and the visit is a very interesting gap-filler that implies that perhaps Denethor did not arrive at the idea of using the palantir all by himself. Saruman's betrayal is not yet known and he arrives in the City with great pomp and splendor. Gondor's wisest wait upon him eagerly to absorb his wisdom. Only a very young Faramir, with his own innate wisdom, is uneasy. He seeks better council from the wizard he loves, Mithrandir, who is also in the city, perhaps for the same reason. The distance between Denethor and his son has started to grow. Denethor's fascination with Saruman is chillingly depicted, and it is after this visit that he enacts the law regarding Ithilien-that anyone found there without leave of the Steward should be questioned, then slain. I absolutely love Faramir's mention of that-["But in later years, I often had cause to curse this law, and curse that I had had no chance to argue against it. To hold men without trial, to kill them after only the sketchiest of hearings – such was my duty, and it was never rightly done. I regret every time I upheld that law; I do not regret the single time I broke it."]. Mithrandir helps Faramir with very few words, letting him know that it is all right to trust his own judgement, young as he is. He is his most delightful, scruffy, pipe-smoking, seemingly disreputable self here, quite different from the polished Curunir. Elboron takes from this story what he needs to make a decision about his own tutor. The relationship between himself and his father is warm and very close and without the strife that can come with early adolescence. He knows his father's quality and respects him greatly. Their easy interaction and mutual respect is a vivid contrast to Faramir's relationship with his own father, and the decision Elboron makes about his tutor indicates that he too will become a wise and even-handed ruler when it is time for him to take the Stewardship.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 10

Altariel is one of my favorite Tolkien fanfiction writers; and not only because she usually writes of my favorite Tolkien human character. She has a wonderful ability to plumb the psychological and political depths in an elegant, minimalist and frequently heart-rending way. This story has layers upon layers, and all of them fascinate. What I loved best about the story was the flashback of Faramir's meeting with Saruman (and Altariel's rendition of Saruman is outstanding) and the reaffirmation of Faramir's bond with Mithrandir. The love and trust between the Grey Pilgrim and Faramir is beautifully written here; a wonderful contrast between the interplay of Faramir and Saruman, and the relationship of Faramir with his own father. The pain of Faramir's sudden realization that his father is enthralled by Saruman's insidious and rather poisonous counsel is conveyed with great skill; the reader feels the boy's fear and confusion that follow his moment of clarity. I must also mention a particularly Neat Bit - Faramir describes the respect and trust given him by Mithrandir, after his having been dismissed as a callow innocent by his father and Saruman and others, as [a mighty gift] - the same phrase used by Denethor in ROTK to reproach Faramir with what Denethor believed Boromir would have brought him - namely, the One Ring. Though I am ambivalent about Elboron's ultimate decision, I found this to be a very insightful story about Faramir's past as well as his relationship with his son.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger -- Score: 10

The first thing that struck me about this story was the title. I was immediately drawn to the line it so obviously references in the book, and I eagerly looked forward to the meeting of Faramir and Gandalf, fully anticipating that this would be the subject of the story. I was not disappointed. But the odd thing about the title is that it was also the last thing to strike me, because once I finished the tale, I looked at the title again and realized the full scope of what this story is about. The team up of Denethor and Saruman was eerie. It's the best word I can think of to describe it. I think part of it is because this is the beginning of their downfall, and in the beginning, what they do and what they value is so close to what it should have been. But it's still slightly distorted, like looking into a mirror and seeing your reflection move a fraction of a second too late. It's not enough for accusation. Not yet. But it's getting there. As for other compliments I can give this story, kudos for some amazing dialog. Given that Altariel is doing the writing, that was expected, but I think this is some of the best I've seen. The means of getting a message across without spelling it out is a clever tactic, and Elboron's final decision regarding his tutor is a culmination of brilliant reasoning. I love this codification of a Steward's duty and what goes in to a Steward's training for that duty. Brilliantly drawn, all around!

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 10

We know from the Lord of the Rings appendices that in the days of Denethor Gandalf was less welcome in Minas Tirith than was Saruman; and we also know that Faramir was described as the wizard's pupil - specifically, Gandalf's pupil. All of this raises the interesting question of what Faramir would have thought of Saruman, and how he would have reacted to such a character, had they met in the years before the war. I did quibble a little over whether Denethohr would be quite as accepting of obviously "dark arts" (to borrow a Harry Potter term) than he is portrayed here, so long before the war. I'm still not sure; yet that isn't the crucial point. What *is* crucial --and perfectly clear to my mind-- is that Faramir would whole-heartedly reject such techniques. We know from his statement to Frodo that he would not [ensnare an orc with a lie], that he isn't an ends-justify-the-means kind of guy. Such conviction doesn't just pop up in extreme situations, and it was nice to see a commitment to that principle in his young life as well. I can also see how this might seem naive to his father, providing a very nice explanation for some of their later dynamic. This question of how far we may go to combat evil threatening our survival is an oh-so-pertinent one for our own times as well as seeming native to Middle-earth. (The current debate in the U.S. over "enhanced interrogation techniques" comes to mind, though it need not be restricted to that issue or country...) It's always nice to see a fanfic author use Tolkien's world as a springboard into contemporary or universal issues because it is often easier to consider such issues in a fantasy environment; and Altariel does it with her usual aplomb. A must-read for anyone who likes thought-provoking fanfic, especially of the Faramir-centric variety.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 10

Altariel gives the Steward's family, whatever the generation, the gravity and the wit that they deserve. I was therefore extremely gratified when this particular nuzgul came home to roost and hatch the tale of U-MT - the University of Minas Tirith. I don't know that I've seen any other story treat the Denethor-Curunír relationship directly, or lend it the significance that Altariel gives it. But the juxtaposition of Denethor's trust in Curunír, and the trust of two other men - Thorongil and Faramir - in Mithrandir over Curunír is one that can't pass without comment. To be in contact with a wizard has its peculiar effects, and so it matters very much *which* wizard one chooses to court as a friend. Faramir's early trust of Mithrandir, and his insight into the dangerous effect that Curunír has, though he lacks the words to describe it, is decisive. The promulgation of the law to treat all those found in Ithilien without leave as enemies soon after Curunír's visit is a great line to end on, as is Faramir's assertion that it should've been killed at birth, that what he regrets is having obeyed it at all. A lesson that is as timely and as necessary for us today as it was ever in Tolkien's time or in Faramir's fictional time - some laws do not deserve obedience, and can only damage those who inherit the burden of obeying the folly of their elders. Beautifully written, and how nice, at the end, to discover that Elboron's listener is one Barahir, in the midst of writing his history!

Reviewed by: obsidianj -- Score: 7

In this story Elboron tells his son a story of his youth of a story he got from his father at the time. It sounds a bit convoluted, but the first person narrative fits this scheme perfectly. After a year in Rohan Elboron comes home and gets a new tutor, whose lessons not always sit well with him. He asks his father for advice and Faramir tells him the story of his encounter with Curunir on his visit to Minas Tirith. I love Faramir's description of Saruman's voice and that they all fell under his spell until the bird breaks the spell, for him at least. Was that bird sent by Mithrandir? The difference between the two wizards is startling. It is chilling to see Denethor distancing himself from his son. From this account I got the impression that it more or less just happened in the beginning without Denethor doing it on purpose. I was glad when I saw the little side note about Faramir taking up his sword again, which showed me that in your universe Faramir got over his trauma after some time.

Reviewed by: agape4gondor -- Score: 6

Beautifully told lesson. I very much liked this. Even being a Denethor fanatic, it was very profound and well written. My heart cried out for Denethor, but I could accept what happened. I loved Faramir's gentle teaching of Elboron and Elboron's learning from such teaching. I don't particularly agree that Denethor would have succumbed to Curunir's voice. It is said the Steward battled against Sauron in the Palantir and never succumbed... The part of Faramir is well-written. I think the young man would have 'discovered' Curunir's 'secret' and reacted in such a way. There is a quality to this author's writing that is simple and sweet and soft - just exactly what I would think of Faramir - when he is NOT on a battlefield. Well done!

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke -- Score: 4

This is an interesting story with many lovely details - very rich and raises many questions. A gift that keeps on giving, so to speak. I liked the multi-generational element, and that while Saruman's strength is in his voice, Gandalf's is in silence. It is also quite a provocative idea that in encouraging Denethor's use of the Palantir, Saruman might have been furthering Sauron's ultimate plan even so early. This story leaves the reader with a lot to think about, and I can imagine no higher compliment.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 4

Barahir, heir to Elboron as Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien, hears words of wisdom regarding reasoning and debate from his father, part of which was related to him by Faramir, learned from encounters with Saruman and Gandalf. Quite a contrast is shown between the two wizards, and the way the spell of Saruman's voice affected Denethor is plainly seen. Mood and environment are well conveyed, as is the message. Technique of first-person narrative is very appropriate to the story as it's being related.

Reviewed by: Ainaechoiriel -- Score: 4

Brilliance and wisdom. In a fanfic. Some just don't think it's possible but there it is, as I have always known it could be. Altariel here has a story within a story, a nice twist to show that at the end. But better still is the wisdom passed from father (who had to learn wisdom apart from his father) to his son (who has such a good and wise father to learn from). Ah, if we in our politics could disagree honestly and without hatred and ugliness, to be able to hear other views to understand why we don't hold them.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 4

This story deals well with two things I have always been curious about--whether Saruman and Denethor might have had dealings in the palantir together, and that Saruman's influence might have had an effect on Denthor; and Faramir's relationship with Gandalf. The framing story, of young Elboron recieving his father's experience, and then relating it to his own son is a brilliant device, and draws together the whole theme of wisdom and age and fathers and sons.

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil -- Score: 2

A very nicely put together 'what if' that seems to work with the characterizations as laid down by Tolkien himself. Well done.

Reviewed by: nancylea -- Score: 1

choose your wizard carefully, alliegency can be fatal.

Reviewed by: Bodkin -- Score: 1

Delightful - I love your Faramir. And, come to that, his family. A most pleasurable read.